75: Lost and Found

75: Lost and Found

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

Lost and Found

If I had a single flower for every time I think about you, I could walk forever in my garden.

~Claudia Ghandi

I wear black. Oh, all right, sometimes I wear black and white. My choice of color, or lack of color, was a source of conversation between Mom and my sisters. Once, they high-fived each other when I arrived in town to visit. They had bet I’d be wearing black, and I was.

“It’s easy to pack,” I bristled. “What could be easier than black and white?”

“What could be easier? How about a little happy color? You always look like you’re going to a funeral.” Mom did an imitation of a sad and weepy woman, dabbing at her eyes.

“No, I don’t! I look professional.”

“Oh, yes, I forgot. You are my serious Suzie. I really think the milkman left you on the doorstep.” Mom rolled her always-merry blue eyes.

I rolled my eyes right back at her, along with a look of disdain.

“Ooh, that look! I know that look,” she said, laughing. “You’re mine. Your father gives me that look. When you were a teenager, I got that look from you all the time. Don’t take life so seriously, SuzieQ!”

For my 50th birthday, my husband, Bill, threw me a birthday party. It was one of the last balmy summer nights in September, when plants are at their fullest. The garden was lush with flowers; tiny lights twinkled, along with flickering lantern candles scattered on tables. Under the moonlight, my family and friends gathered to toast the anniversary of my birth.

I had made a conscious decision to show Mom and my sisters a thing or two. For the party, I dressed in a turquoise pantsuit and a turquoise scarf with hot pink roses on it. I found silk turquoise sandals on the clearance rack.

“These sandals will fix them. They’re the corker!” I mumbled, squeezing my pinkies into them.

Mom went crazy. “Look! She’s wearing color.”

At the end of the night, Mom hugged me. “How can my little Suzie be 50 years old? You don’t look like an old lady when you wear color!”

She hugged my husband, too, and said what she always said to him, “You’re a great guy, Bill.”

It was the last birthday I’d ever celebrate with her.

She died suddenly. I never said goodbye.

Just after my mother’s memorial, morning dawned with that sinking feeling about the reality of death. A friend invited me to go to an art festival. I was glad I said yes as I strolled along in the happy yellow sunshine, sipped on freshly squeezed lemonade and tried to forget grief.

The shops were having a sidewalk sale to coincide with the festival. I was drawn to a rack of jackets outside a boutique. One jacket caught my eye. It was denim, but patches of color were sewn like a quilt on it. The kaleidoscope of colors included lots of turquoise. It made me think of my birthday.

It fit perfectly. It was too much money. It wasn’t black. I didn’t need a jacket.

I bought it anyway.

The first time I wore it, I shook my head and wondered if a force I couldn’t understand made me buy it. I chuckled thinking what Mom would say if she could see me.

Most every time I wore the jacket, someone commented on it in a favorable way. It got to where I played a game with myself to see if someone would say, “Oh, what a colorful jacket.” Or “I love your coat!” I wondered if Mom was having a ball in heaven watching the game.

I purchased rhinestone turquoise earrings. Was Mom’s spirit invading me? No one loved rhinestones and sparkly things more than Mom.

Then, it all came to an end.

On a trip to Washington, D.C., the Metro station platform was full of jostling commuters at rush hour. I was lugging a suitcase and my briefcase. It was hot. I took off my jacket of many colors, and laid it across the top of my suitcase. I clutched my purse and the handles of my luggage while I looked up at the platform map. When I turned to head to the correct train, my jacket was gone. I retraced my steps looking for my jacket. I searched everywhere. I went to the Metro offices hoping someone turned it in to the Lost and Found. I called a few times after I returned home. My jacket had a small angel pin on the collar so it would be easy to identify. No luck.

It made me sad. I actually moped about it and felt ashamed. I told myself it was just a jacket. I even tried telling myself maybe someone needed the jacket more than I did.

My husband shopped for another one, but couldn’t find it. The store suggested he try looking on their website under clearance. No luck. I scolded him for trying, because the jacket was expensive when I first bought it. I didn’t deserve another one when I was careless.

I tried to figure out why it bothered me so much. If someone stole it, I felt violated, of course, and dumb for not being alert. But, I also realized the jacket was connected to the loss of my mother in my mind. I felt wrapped in my mother’s love when I wore that jacket even though she never even saw it. I had to let it go and let her go.

Unbeknownst to me, Bill didn’t give up.

Funny thing was I had my passport photo taken wearing the jacket. There were also a few other photos of me wearing the jacket. He downloaded the photos and had an exact photo of my “coat of many colors.” He put it in his search engine. Each day he would check to see if there was a match. One day just before Christmas, he received a notice that there was a jacket available on eBay. He bought it.

When he told me, I felt wrapped in love. It was like the sun broke through the darkness and color came back into my life.

It arrived in the mail just after the New Year. We laughed that it might actually be my jacket, but it wasn’t. I checked the collar to see if there was an angel pin or pin pricks. No pin and no holes in the fabric. The jacket was brand new and he bought it at a bargain price. It was exactly like my old one. I tried it on and it fit perfectly. I felt happy.

It wasn’t because of the jacket, although seeing it was like greeting an old friend. The joy I felt was the sense of knowing how magnificent it is to be loved. I grabbed my husband and gave him a fierce hug. Mom’s spirit and love dwells within me. I could almost hear her whisper along with me, “You’re a great guy, Bill.”

~Suzanne F. Ruff

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